Thursday, August 11, 2011

Health Computing in the Cloud Promise and Risks. There Are All Sorts of Wrinkles To Be Aware Of!

The following very useful article on the place of the cloud in Health IT appeared a few days ago.

Health Care in the Cloud

James M. Kunick

Health Data Management Magazine, 08/01/2011

According to a recent Gartner Group study, annual spending on cloud-related transactions may grow to almost $150 billion worldwide by 2014. Although health care is a market segment that has generally resisted jumping into the technology explosion taking place "in the cloud," according to the CDW 2011 Cloud Computing Tracking Poll, 30 percent of health care organizations are now either implementing cloud-based solutions or are already operating such solutions.

In addition, the poll projects that current cloud users will spend more than one-third of their 2016 I.T. budget on cloud resources and applications. This ever-growing movement is driven by the flexibility, cost savings and convenience that cloud-based solutions can offer. At the same time, there are significant downsides to making the move-including the loss of control over critical I.T. systems and sensitive data. However, there are a number of ways health care organizations can manage the risks and reap the rewards of the cloud.

Benefits and risks of the cloud

The term "cloud computing" generally refers to a "public" cloud, in which users have the ability to access I.T. resources and data, on demand, from a third-party provider over the Internet. By effectively outsourcing software hosting, maintenance and support to a cloud services provider, local and regional health care organizations can obtain reliable, scalable, secure and easily available technology solutions that might otherwise be out of reach.

Health care organizations can derive substantial benefits by moving their I.T. systems and data to the cloud. According to the CDW survey, 88 percent of health care organizations that are cloud users have reduced the cost of software applications by moving them into the cloud, with an average annual savings of 20 percent.

Despite the clear cost savings, health care organizations should carefully monitor tax regulations as states begin to formulate positions on the taxability of cloud-based services. Several states have already issued administrative rulings that such services may be subject to state sales tax, and providers are certain to pass these taxes on to their customers.

Other benefits of a cloud solution include (1) fast and easy access to patient data as compared to paper files; (2) best practices data security; and (3) transaction-based pricing for access to state-of-the-art hardware and software. (Cloud users typically pay a monthly or annual subscription fee to the cloud service provider for hosting the software and data and providing Internet-based access, as well as the maintenance and support services that keep the application running.)

There are also a number of unique cloud-based solutions that can specifically benefit health care organizations, including:

* Access to encrypted EMR and EHR;

* Storage of de-identified patient data and practice guidelines in centralized databases;

* Home monitoring apps for patients; and

* Real-time collaboration by professionals using encrypted or de-identified patient data.

A cloud-based solution will, however, require health care organizations to turn over sensitive information-such as the personal health information of its patients and customers-to the provider. If an unauthorized disclosure of such sensitive information occurs, it can have particularly severe consequences for health care organizations, including significant costs of recovering/restoring the data and of notifying affected individuals of the disclosure.

Lots more here - with topics like termination from the use of the cloud, security and compliance management among other things discussed:

http://www.healthdatamanagement.com/issues/19_8/health-care-in-the-cloud-42884-1.html?zkPrintable=true

I believe we will see increasing use of the cloud in Health IT and it would seem obvious that using the cloud as a platform for a basic emergency care shared record for example - for those who wanted one - might be quite an interesting idea. Obviously most of the major Personal Health Record providers are already using the cloud and this could be just a small extension to that environment for those who what it.

Interesting times indeed.

David.

No comments: